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26 March 2020
By SARAH MATTHEWS
The tyranny of distance is a major hurdle for football and netball recruitment – just ask Horsham District club Edenhope-Apsley.
The Saints’ A Grade side regularly changes personnel, with the west Wimmera club often relying on home-grown talent coming home.
The club has struck gold this year, welcoming back highly decorated netballer Emma Ryan as a playing coach.
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Ryan last pulled on a Saints dress in 2015, the same year the club claimed the minor premiership following an undefeated season, but missed out on a grand-final berth in a heartbreaking one-goal preliminary final loss.
Ryan, who plays up both ends of the court, collected her second Horsham District league senior best and fairest award that season.
She has also won top individual honours in Central Highlands, Ballarat and Goulburn Valley leagues and played at state level.
Ryan will bring a wealth of netball knowledge to the Saints and has already placed a strong focus on pre-season fitness.
She previously coached in Goulburn Valley league and this is her first Horsham District coaching appointment.
“Being able to coach at home, with family around, was always something I wanted to do,” Ryan said.
“There are a lot of people, including a lot of friends, I haven’t seen in a while so it’s nice to reconnect.”
Ryan was overseas throughout most of the pre-season sessions but set a training program for netballers to follow.
“I made it really hard,” she said.
“Fitness is important, if you can start the season fit it’s a big advantage.
“It’s what allows you to run over the top of other teams that are not as fit.”
Ryan said other netball leaders did a great job taking training in her absence and the girls looked ‘super fit’ upon her return.
“I’ve been lucky to have other people taking training for me, and I’ve had really positive feedback from them,” she said.
All Horsham District and Wimmera clubs have ceased group training in line with AFL Wimmera Mallee’s coronavirus response.
“We had a meeting the other night and the mindset is, it is what it is,” Ryan said.
“We’re not that upset about football and netball when there are bigger problems.
“We will try to keep positive.”
Ryan said she would re-jig her fitness program for netballers to do at home.
“Obviously it can be harder to stay motivated when you can’t train together but I’m hoping everyone will be able to,” she said.
She said given the plan to run a shorter season, fitness would be even more vital as teams struggled to settle in and win as many games as possible before finals.
The Saints were about to start the team selection process when they were ordered to stop training.
Ryan said she was still working out her side for 2020, although her sister Ash would return throughout the season.
Ash, who last played for her home club in 2018, will add strength to the midcourt. “It’s a bit hard because she’s in Bendigo now, but the plan is for her to come back and play some games,” Ryan said.
She said this year’s A Grade side would look completely different from last year’s.
“Most people from last year have either left or are having babies,” she said.
“It’s hard to retain players in such a remote area, particularly the strong players we had five to 10 years ago,
“We have a few definites, but then we have eight or so girls who could be in A Grade.
“It’s too early to say anything until we go through the selection process.”
Ryan said she had been in talks with several travelling players, although the current situation made it difficult to recruit.
“I know we will have a relatively young side,” she said. Ryan said she expected a tough competition, with teams such as Laharum, Natimuk United and Harrow-Balmoral to again lead the pack.
“It’s hard to say, because I haven’t been around for a while, but I know there are some big, strong players in those top teams,” she said.
“We won’t match up in terms of size, but we will have some strong players and I’m looking to form a really good team rather than a team of superstars.
“There’s no reason we can’t be up there.”
Ryan said the club’s number-one goal was to make finals in all grades.
“Once you make finals, anything can happen,” she said.
“Hopefully we can do that in A Grade and then upset a few teams, if we’re not beating them already.”
A Grade: Emma Ryan
B Grade: Alex King and Felicity McCosker
C Grade: Lizzie West
C Reserve: Kerry Pretlove
17 and under: TBC
15 and under: Georgia Lowe
13 and under: Georgia Thompson and Alarna Proffit
Modified: Sara McDonnell
Net Set Go: Julie West
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